How To Speak About An Unspeakable God: The Christian Mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite

KneppeWEBTimothy Knepper, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Drake University

NEW DATE/LOCATION: Thursday, December 5, 7:00 p.m. in Sussman Theater (Olmsted Center)

How does one say what can’t be said? How does one speak about an unspeakable God? This “problem” is central to the influential writings of the anonymous sixth-century Christian mystic known to us as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. While Dionysius’s Trinitarian God remains the cause of all, it is at the same time beyond all words, names, and assertions. And although Dionysius sometimes simply asserts this apparently paradoxical claim, he more frequently performs it through a series of grammar-violating linguistic techniques. Prof. Knepper’s lecture will begin by examining this discourse of ineffability in the Dionysian corpus; it will then put it into comparative conversation with the other discourses of ineffability that The Comparison Project has examined this semester.

Timothy Knepper is an associate professor of philosophy at Drake University, where he chairs the Department of Philosophy and Religion and directs The Comparison Project. He teaches and publishes in the philosophy of religion, comparative religion, late ancient Neoplatonism, and mystical discourse. He is the author of books on the future of the philosophy of religion (The Ends of Philosophy of Religion, Palgrave, 2013) and Dionysius the Areopagite (Negating Negation, Wipf & Stock, 2014). And he is currently working on edited collections on “Philosophy of Religion for Religious Studies” and “Discourses of Ineffability in Comparative Perspective.”

Watch Prof. Knepper’s talk below:


Paying Attention: The Fine Art and Neuroscience of Visual Awareness

StaffordBarbara Stafford, Distinguished University Visiting Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology School of Architecture

Response by Lenore Metrick-Chen, Associate Professor of Art History, Drake University

Thursday, October 24, 7:00 p.m. in Cowles Library Reading Room

Barbara Stafford’s research strives to find precise ways of bringing neurobiology, cognitive science, and the new philosophy of mind together with cultural phenomena without falling into reductivism on either side. In this lecture, she will tackle a comparatively understudied and relatively under-researched area in the contemporary neurosciences—an area where the imaging side of the humanities has much to contribute—the importance of selective attention. What are the inducements for attending carefully to the subtleties of the world?

Barbara Maria Stafford is an independent writer, curator and speaker. Her work has consistently explored the intersections between the visual arts and the physical and biological sciences from the early modern to the contemporary era. Her current research charts the revolutionary ways the neurosciences are changing our views of the human and animal sensorium, shaping our fundamental assumptions about perception, sensation, emotion, mental imagery, and subjectivity. Her most recent book is The Field Guide to a New Metafield: Bridging the Humanities-Neurosciences Divide [2011].

Listen to audio of the lecture: 

Download the Stafford Lecture PowerPoint